Steps to Improve the Quality of the Indoor Air You Breathe
By Heather Robson
In this article, I’m going to share with you six ways you can instantly improve the quality of the air you breathe. But first, let’s take a closer look at why this is so important.
Fine particulates in the air you breathe may form deposits in your lungs and brain. The higher the level of fine particulates in the air is, the greater the impact on your cognitive function.
High levels of carbon dioxide that build up in indoor spaces – especially in energy-efficient buildings with lots of people, like your average office building – also impair your cognitive abilities. The decision-making abilities of people working in such circumstances tend to suffer under even moderate exposure to carbon dioxide. So, if you ever wonder why so many people at your work make dumb decisions, it might literally be something in the air!
Particularly at this time of year, when we seal our homes up tight against the weather, the quality of the air can drop rapidly. That can have serious consequences for your health, both in the short term and for the long haul.
These Facts Will Make You Want To Step Out for a Breath of Fresh Air
The Environmental Protection Agency lists indoor air pollution as one of the top environmental public health concerns. Common sources of indoor air pollution include mold, bacteria, dust mites, pollen, animal dander, cigar/cigarette smoke, chemicals left behind by cleaning products, and byproducts produced from heating and cooking.
The average person spends nearly 90% of their time indoors, and many studies estimate that indoor air in the typical home or building is at least 25 times more polluted than the air outside. The American College of Allergists states that half of all diseases are either caused by or aggravated by poor indoor air quality.
Yes, I Have Solutions for You
Fortunately, cleaning up the air quality in your home isn’t difficult or expensive to do.
First, check your ventilation. Today’s energy efficient homes tend to trade high efficiency for poorer air quality. Not enough air from outside enters the home to dilute pollutants and not enough air escapes to allow the pollutants to leave. One of the easiest ways to improve air quality is to simply crack a window or two for a couple of hours each day. Your furnace will have to work a little harder to heat your home during the day, but your home’s air will be much healthier.
The second thing to do is keep your floors clean. Most pollutants settle out of the air when left undisturbed. But then people walking through the home, the furnace kicking on, the front door opening and closing – these can all stir up those pollutants.
If you clean your floors regularly, you’ll trap many of the particulates and get rid of them. That’s good news for the air you breathe. Use a vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter that you replace or clean regularly. Mop at least once a week. And put down welcome mats for people to wipe their feet on before entering your home. These easy steps can dramatically reduce the indoor pollution in your house.
Test for radon. Extreme levels of radon can be a dangerous indoor pollutant – it can cause lung cancer. You can pick up a radon testing kit for under $30. The test is easy to do, and can help you identify whether or not this dangerous pollutant is a problem in your home.
Another effective way to reduce indoor pollutants is to switch to natural cleaners. A lot of chemical cleaners leave behind harmful compounds in the air. Something as innocent as a plug-in air freshener, for example, can release more than 20 kinds of volatile organic compounds into the air.
Using cleaners and air fresheners that contain mostly natural ingredients can be a big help in terms of air quality. Seventh Generation products are a good choice for natural cleaning supplies. When it comes to freshening the air, try bringing a small pot of water to a simmer. Drop in a couple of cinnamon sticks and apple slices. The scent will beat the socks off artificial air fresheners and it’s better for you, too!
Change your HVAC filters often. Many folks procrastinate or forget about this obvious way to reduce allergens in the air. You can even install ultraviolet lighting within the furnace which helps kill bacteria as they circulate through the system. Both of these steps are very, very easy, and can provide significant health benefits. Look at this this way: your HVAC system is a filter, and your lungs are filters. Let your HVAC system do most of the work and you’ll keep the toxics out of your lungs and out of your body.
Finally, pay attention to the humidity in your home. If your air is too dry or too moist, it can create conditions that increase the pollution in your home. Try to maintain humidity levels between 30% and 50% for the best air quality.
Obviously, you can’t get by without breathing. So, take control of your home’s air quality. You and your family will spend less time suffering from colds and allergies, you’ll have more energy and better cognitive function and you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease while you’re at it. That’s a lot of benefit from a few simple changes.